It's been a week of decisions - one of which has been in the air for a while, and one which followed an unexpected turn of events.
The first of these is the difficult decision to cancel my upcoming English Channel swim. This was scheduled for the week beginning 15th July, and I have been concerned for some time about the unseasonably low water temperatures, which are still hovering stubbornly around 12.5 C (54.5 F). With only 3 weeks to go, it is extremely unlikely that temperatures will rise to a swimmable range (for me). Without doubt, there are some extremely hardy swimmers out there who can do such a challenging swim in those temperatures, but I am not one of them. Furthermore, because of the unexpected change in my personal circumstances and my pending relocation, I couldn't put myself on standby for the summer because I need to be able to plan my time, so am not able to postpone the swim and wait for a stray slot. It had to be that tide or nothing.
It was a very difficult decision for me to make, and no doubt some will find it rather feeble. But I realised over the last week that I was starting to dread the swim, and felt trapped - not because I don't want to do a Channel swim (I am otherwise very well trained, good for the distance, and was excited about it), but because of the nagging certainty that I was very unlikely to be successful under the current conditions. I felt that I couldn't back out of the swim, but increasingly didn't want to enter into a swim that I was very unlikely to be able to complete and almost certainly wouldn't enjoy. This latter is also no small consideration - it's supposed to be a leisure activity, after all. With two unsuccessful swims out of two so far this year, the thought of the hat-trick was hard to swallow, and my rather scary brush with hypothermia in Mallorca taught me that there are some very real risks here that are not to be taken lightly. With this weighing down on me, I've not been sleeping well, and then fell ill with some kind of non-descript viral thing that I'm sure is partly just being a bit run down, post-MIMS, but also reflects this underlying stress. And then, in a revelatory moment, I realised that I could just put a stop to it; that while not swimming has some costs, it's not compulsory, and it's okay to pull the plug. Nothing bad happens. So I emailed my pilot to cancel my swim and felt instantly relieved and lighter. And I slept like a baby for the first time in a week last night. A hard decision, but the right one for me, I am absolutely certain.
And so to the second decision - related to the first, but independent of it. After MIMS, I was resigned to the outcome and felt reasonably confident that I would be able to live with a good day of swimming, in spite of the final result. I knew that I wouldn't be able to go back at least for the next few years, and was quite happy just to leave it, and the Triple Crown, be. But then, just as I had reached some kind of equilibrium over the whole affair, an email dropped into my inbox from NYC Swim offering a re-match - a "quiet swim" in late August for those who recorded DNF / boat-assisted finishes earlier this month. So now I had a dilemma - enjoy what I had already achieved and move on, or give in to the lure of "unfinished business" and take this unexpected opportunity to get it done? Perhaps inevitably, especially in light of the decision about the Channel, I have thrown my hat in the ring for the August swim. I want to end the season on a success, and all things being equal, I know that I can complete Manhattan. It may be a huge mistake, and of course, there's no guarantee that it will end in success; I could still end the season with three failures for three. But I think it's worth a go (and this time Peter gets to come along too, which will make it extra fun).
So those are my two decisions: a cancelled Channel swim and an unexpected second time around at MIMS. This is not how I imagined my summer would be, but it's an unpredictable business. I've learned a lot about failure and unpredictability this year, and think that I will be a better swimmer for it.
Good luck to all the English Channel swimmers this year - I'll be following obsessively and rooting for you all. And to my fellow 'boat assisted' MIMS swimmers, I hope to see some of you in New York later in the summer.